WASHINGTON – After disappearing while serving in eastern Afghanistan in June of 2009, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl spent five years as a Taliban captive.
Last weekend, Bergdahl was freed from captivity in exchange for the release of five senior Taliban figures, who had been held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Notably, the U.S. classified neither Bergdahl nor its Taliban prisoners as prisoners of war.
On July 1, 2009, shortly after his disappearance, the Pentagon listed Bergdahl as “duty status whereabouts unknown.”
Two days later, the Pentagon changed his status to “missing/captured”; this remained his official status up until his release.
The Pentagon’s definition of “missing/captured” applies to any member of the armed forces who has been “seized as the result of action of an unfriendly military or paramilitary force in a foreign country.”
Although Bergdahl’s release has been celebrated by many, including his overjoyed family and his hometown of Hailey, Idaho, others have raised questions about the legality of the exchange through which his freedom was attained, and about the high cost at which it was gained.
As the Washington Times reports, at least six soldiers died during attempts to rescue Bergdahl.
The Washington Post reports that by releasing the five Taliban members to the de facto custody of Qatar, Obama appears to have acted without first notifying Congress of his decision. Furthermore, the Afghan government alleges that it was not notified of the release of the Taliban members until after they had been released.
Uncertainties also surround Bergdahl’s capture back in 2009, notably centered around the question of whether or not he deserted. Alternatively, in a Taliban propaganda video that surfaced after his capture, Bergdahl stated that he had been captured while lagging behind in a patrol.